English : etika in a nutshell

, par Ekkehart Schmidt




















Etika was established in 1996 as an independent non-profit organisation in Luxembourg to foster social finance by providing objective information on ethical investing.

Etika is an association founded by associations, which are active in the field of environmental protection, the promotion of biodynamic agriculture, the promotion of positive social action and the international solidarity.

The association has nine members :
- Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM),
- Appui au Développement Autonome (ADA),
- Cercle de coopération des ONG de développement,
- Coopérative Co-labor,
- Fondation Caritas Luxembourg,
- Haus vun der Natur,
- Inter-Actions,
- Stëftung Ökofonds,
- Bio Lëtzebuerg (Demeter Bond).

Etika was founded to respond to two needs :

1. to propose the Luxembourgian investor financial products, which guarantee both the responsible character of the investment (promotion of projects having a strong social and/or environmental added value, which exclude projects that have a negative impact on humans or the environment) and the transparency of the money invested as well as the object of the investment

2. raising awareness of the Luxembourgian population for the products of SRI (socially responsible investment) regardless of the promotion of a particular project or a particular institution

Etika has created an „alternative savings account“ in collaboration with the Banque et Caisse d’Epargne de l’Etat, which constitutes an important aspect of its work. This account is similar to a classical savings account in terms of security (the capital and the interests are guaranteed) and the liquidity of the account. It differs from the classical savings account in the sense that it responds to the criteria of transparency and responsibility. The “alternative saver” accepts a somewhat lower interest rate compared to that of the classical account, which allows the BCEE to hand out the credit at a lower interest rate to projects which have been retained by etika and by the bank.

By accepting a lower interest rate on their deposits, investors make it possible for etika to grant loans at favourable interest rates to finance socially responsible projects in Luxembourg and in developing countries. By way of example, etika granted a bridging loan guarantee for the expansion of the micro credit programme LUXMINT (today LMDF) and assists various projects in the domains of renewable energies, ecological agriculture or distribution of biological food.

The structures of etika are :

  • the board of directors, who decide the general guidelines of the association
  • the credit committee, which evaluates the merit of the proposed projects in the light of environmental, social and economic sustainability.

The members of the two bodies are volunteers, named by the general assembly of the association. Two employees round up the team.

Today there are more than 1.100 people holding an alternative savings account, with which it was possible to finance almost 200 projects in different sectors, like :

  • the production of renewable energies
  • the production and distribution of organically grown food
  • the promotion of positive social action for the weaker parts of the population
  • the promotion of cultural diversity
  • the revival of local communities
  • actions of development in less developed countries

Everyone holding an alternative savings account is regularly informed through the bulletin “etika info” on how the savings are invested, and which is published three times a year on paper and online as well as in the annual report.

To raise the awareness of the Luxembourgian population, of the financial community and of the public authorities on the question of social finance and SRI, etika organizes public conferences, teaches in schools, produces expositions or different publications.

Etika published for example the first ever socially responsible investment guide for Luxembourg in 2007 (new edition in 2009). Another guide was launched in 2010, in partnership with Réseau pour le Financement Alternatif (Belgium) and Alternatives Economiques (France) focusing on social finance products available in Belgium, France and Luxembourg.

Since the summer of 2015 etika also offers lectures in popular education.

Key figures : Evolution of the alternative savings account until 30st of september 2016

Total savings in millions of Euro : 51,8 million ;
Number of accounts : 1.122

On our homepage we describe our projects in French and German. But please feel free to write us and ask questions in English.

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Help your community without lifting a finger

(article from Jess Bauldry, published in 352LUXMAG No. 106, 14.04.2011)

Ever wanted to help a charity but don’t have the time to volunteer or the funds to donate cash ? If this sounds like you then there is one option open which involves simply visiting the national bank and opening account.

Etika is Luxembourg’s first and only social funder, supporting scores of worthwhile social and environmental projects around the country with low interest credit.

The loans, which have so far funded projects such as the Emile Weber hybrid buses and organic farms, are supported by people who have opened alternative bank account with the Spuerkeess, the country’s national bank.

Etika press officer Ekkehart Schmidt-Fink explained : “It’s almost exactly the same as opening a normal bank account. The only thing you would notice on your bank account is that your bank card will say alternative, that the interest rate of a Alternative savings is lower comper to a regular saving account and of course the fact that money you put into this account is invested in responsible projects with social or environmental values.”Etika engages itself in full disclosure : thus we will send you three times a year ist newletter etika-info, describing every project your money is invested in, including the name of the entrepreneur and the location of the project.

At present there are nearly 880 account holders, a figure which is rising by a stead 20% year on year. “It is still low”, said Mr Schmidt-Fink. “We have to be clear it’s a small piece of the cake. I think that people are starting to ask more questions about what happens to their money.”

The impact of this work on the social fabric of Luxembourg society is immeasurable. The benefits of Etika’s tiny team of two hall-time staff (meaning 1,5 full time equivalent)and volunteers are seen all around the country, from the buses, to tourism in the Velosophie ethical tourism programme, to social housing for people on low incomes, organic farms and programmes aimed at getting people back to work.

Etika coordinator Jean-Sébastien Zippert said : “The criteria for our projects is like those for other social banks in Europe. We intend to invest in projects which can provide an environmental or social added value. It’s a very broad criteria. For environmental projects we try to focus on renewable energy, organic farming and sustainable distribution. We focus on non profit organisations which have project which protect the environment and bio diversity. On the social side we choose organisations aimed at getting people back into work who are long-term unemployed and those without training or qualifications. Also we try to help people with housing problems. It’s really huge in Luxembourg especially because of the house prices. The other focus is local community development. We concentrate on companies doing things in Luxembourg, creating activities and communities where there is none, like in dormitory towns. For example we helped support a café, to provide a meeting point in a place where there was no social cohesion before.”

Ethical banks, which invest the funds of their clients in socially responsible or sustainable projects evolved in Europe durin the 1970s. Among the more familiar names are Triodos and the Charity bank, based in the UK. The account holder may receive a slightly lower interest rate on their savings (0.2% in the case of the Spuerkeess) but this enables the bank to offer lower interest credit than any other fianancial institution to worthy causes (0.7% interest in the case of Etika loans).

Mr Zippert said : “Normally, people don’t think about how their bank is investing their money. They just get their interest at the end of the year. But, I think that since the financial crisis of 2008, people are becoming more aware of that they have an ethical responsibility, whether they buying transfair or regular bananas or choosing a bank account. We would be happy if people asked their banks how their money is being invested. If for example, you were against nuclear energy and the bank invested in that, perhaps you would like to change your account.”

Bike tours

Etika is organising a number of awareness-raising activities, including several bike tours with award-winning sustainable tourism firm VeloSophie, visiting some of their projects. The tours are held on May 15 and June 18. They are free of charge (except for the meals). If you do not have a bike, you can hire one for 20 euros.

Who wants to win 1,000 euros ?

Etika is also organising Qui veut gagner en vision, a quiz show based on the theme of Who wants to be a millionaire with questions based around sustainbility and globalisation. The first prize is 1,000 euros and there will be a maximum of six candidates selected from a draw. To enter go along on the night and write your name on a piece of paper. The next event is May 10 at 6.30 PM at Exit07, in Hollerich. The quiz will be in French but translations can be made.